Momentum, good vibes. Whatever you want to call it, it can vanish in an instant, or for the New York Red Bulls, in a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Impact.
Wednesday night the New York Red Bulls hosted the Impact in the final game of a three-day home set. After a disappointing start to the season that saw the 2018 Supporters Shield winners sitting at or near the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, New York’s MLS originals seemed to have righted the ship with consecutive wins versus FC Cincinnati and the Los Angeles Galaxy at Red Bull Arena.
The 1-0 victory over Cincinnati was merely the appetizer for the Bulls main course, a thrilling 3-2 defeat of the Zlatan Ibrahimovic led Galaxy, a win that cast Montreal as the dessert course in what would have been a rather tasty three game redemption dinner.
Montreal ends the momentum
Alas, Montreal put paid to all that with Wednesday night’s comeback win in front of a typically small mid-week RBA crowd. Despite the continued absence of the Red Bulls primary goal scorer, Bradley Wright-Phillips, the home side opened briskly, putting immediate pressure on Evan Bush in the Montreal goal.
With Kaku available after serving his five game suspension for a wild kicked ball that struck a fan, New York coach Chris Armas elected to begin with his sides chief playmaker on the bench.
Afterward, High Press Soccer asked Armas if he had held Kaku out for a lack of match fitness? For Armas it seemed like a case of -if it’s not broke, why fix it?
“You know, he was match fit and training well,” the New York coach began. “He’s been with us all year here and we came out last game feeling pretty good, we felt like the same structure made sense and the players that started match for them to be out there.”
Armas’ theory was looking good with the home team starting well and they got their reward in the 36th minute when Long leaped highest to power home a header from a fine Marc Rzatkowski feed.
The Red Bulls 1-0 halftime lead seemed about right, and it was easy to imagine the home team walking away with the spoils 45 minutes hence.
But to their great credit Montreal, still without their best player Ignacio Piatti, and playing its ninth road game of 12 in 2019, were only too happy to upset the Red Bulls applecart, scoring twice in the second half while blunting the New York attack.
With no Piatti to turn to the Impact mimicked the Red Bulls approach– their big center-back Zakaria Diallo flicking home a header from a Max Urruti cross after Urruti took a pass from a dead ball situation.
Montreal would take the lead on an Urruti penalty conversion that came from a bad giveaway by Connor Lade, who has been one of New York’s best players in recent weeks, good enough to keep 2018 MLS All-Star fullback Michael Murillo glued to the bench of late.
Long ended up committing the foul on Jackson-Hammel to concede the pk, another moment in an event filled night for the big defender.
Urruti took his chance well for his first goal of 2019 and it would be enough to end the Red Bulls mini-streak and break their momentum as RBNY head to Texas for a Saturday date with FC Dallas.
Afterward, Long stood in front of his locker and described his injury as “super tight right now,” saying that he would be going for an MRI the following day (Thursday). The Red Bulls center back looked to be in considerable pain when he was helped off the pitch in the 76th minute and post-game Long admitted that this particular pain was a new feeling.
“No, never felt like that before,” a frustrated Long answered when High Press Soccer inquired. “Hoping it’s not too bad.” The Red Bulls will be hoping the same and while hamstrings can take a while to recover from Long conceded that “Saturday is probably unlikely.”
Having used up all their subs the Red Bulls finished with 10 men and could not find an equalizer. From a Red Bulls perspective it was undoubtedly a hard loss, with team slipping to 10th place in the Eastern Conference ahead of only Cincinnati, who just fired its coach, Alan Koch, and New England, who must surely be considering Brad Friedel’s position after consecutive losses of 5-0 Wednesday night to Chicago and 6-1 on Saturday versus Philadelphia.
NYRB adding some goal-scoring punch from RBII
But let’s end on a positive note. Earlier on Wednesday the Red Bulls announced the signing of forward Tom Barlow from Red Bulls II, the team’s USL representative.
With BWP out and backup Brian White suffering from a “soft tissue injury,” very much the in vogue malady of the moment, Barlow got the start. The 23-year-old was drafted out of Wisconsin prior to last season and he immediately lit up the USL, scoring 10 goals in 11 starts in 2018 and adding six before his call up to the big club this season.
Barlow admitted that despite the loss, that “ Yeah, couldn’t be more happy to make my debut tonight.” High Press Soccer asked if Barlow if he thought he’d scored on a second half effort that was blocked by an Impact defender.
“I hoped,” Barlow laughed. “Oh, yeah,” Barlow went on with a rueful grin. “I was hoping but uh, they might have called it offside, I think. But the goalie made a nice little play. But yeah, we’ve been nice. But unluckily, it didn’t go in.”
It was that kind of night for the Red Bulls who head to Dallas and another chance to get back that fleeting momentum, those elusive good vibes.